We embrace the normative claim that universities ought to devote some portion of their research and creative activities to understanding, explaining, and helping to solve challenges and needs that are identified with community members. Rooted in reciprocal partnerships, which draw on the cultural wealth of people and communities, this kind of scholarship not only addresses important public challenges, but also leads to breakthroughs in disciplinary understanding and methods. Our definition is consistent with that of CU Boulder’s Office of University Outreach and endorsed by the Council of Deans, which defines engaged research as
the ways faculty, staff, and students collaborate with external groups in mutually beneficial partnerships that are grounded in scholarship and consistent with our role and mission as a comprehensive, public research university.
Collaborative, community-based research projects can take many forms. In some cases community organizations invite a university researcher with particular content expertise, such as water quality or renewable energy, to contribute to studying an environmental resource issue. In other cases partners invite a researcher who has methodological expertise, such as carrying out ethnography or designing a survey, in order for community members to conduct locally focused participatory action research. These projects convene people with varied training and expertise, working collectively in mutually beneficial ways, on research studies that matter to the public (Boyte, 2004). Because engaged scholarship diverges from traditional assumptions about knowledge production in many research intensive universities, it calls for new kinds of infrastructure, professional networks, and intellectual exchange.